So, About the ASD

A new study out of Vanderbilt calls into question the effectiveness of the Achievement School District.

Specifically, the study notes:

While there were some changes year-to-year — up and down — there was no statistical improvement on the whole, certainly not enough to catapult these low-performing schools into some of the state’s best, which was the lofty goal.

Those results echo the findings reported by Gary Rubinstein in his analysis of the schools under ASD management the longest.

Rubinstein noted:

As you can see, four of the original six schools are still in the bottom 5% while the other two have now ‘catapulted’ to the bottom 6%.

In 2014, Ezra Howard did an analysis of the ASD after two years of management and found that the results were not significantly better than what would have been expected had the schools remained under district management.

Based on his reading of the results, he noted:

 First, can the ASD reach 55% P/A in order to be in the top quartile? Maybe. In order to reach that magic number of 55% P/A in all three of these subjects, the ASD would have to average 11.07% gains in Math and 12.67% gains in ELA over a 5 year period. However, in the last two years, the ASD has averaged 2.92% gains in Math and 0.72% gains in ELA.

Second, is the money being spent on ASD a worthwhile investment. Howard notes:

an exorbitant amount is spent on results that are, at best, no different than what the data suggests we could have expected had these schools not been taken over by the ASD.

Now, we have three years of data and analysis by both Gary Rubinstein and Vanderbilt researchers. All of which suggest that Howard’s preliminary analysis was on-target.  The ASD is moving slowly at best, and not markedly better than district schools.

In spite of this, ASD officials noted in response to the Vanderbilt study:

For its part, leaders of the Achievement School District say there’s not enough data “to draw any decisive conclusions” and that their work is making a “positive difference.”

That sounds awfully cautious for an outfit that touted its success in a blog post and media release earlier this year.

As the ASD continues, the question is:  Will the Tennessee General Assembly allow this model to continue, or will it set some limits in order to push the district to demonstrate more success before further expanding its reach?

More on the ASD:

Expansion Teams

That’s Not That Much, Really

ASD vs. Nashville Middle Schools

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

 

 

A Simple Wish

Amanda Kail, a teacher in MNPS and a member of CAPE, has released her prepared remarks ahead of tonight’s MNPS School Board meeting.

Here’s what she plans to say:

Dear ladies and gentlemen of the board. My name is Amanda Kail. I am an EL teacher at Margaret Allen Middle Prep. And I am here to talk about my wish list for this district.
So what do I wish? How would I make things different? I wish that this district would take teaching and learning seriously. I wish that instructional time was treated as the MOST important part of the school year. I wish that no one would even dream of asking teachers to shift their schedules and lesson plans constantly to make room for assessments that give us very little useful feedback.
Why don’t these assessments give us useful feedback? Because they are riddled with confusing formats, questions that are developmentally inappropriate, and require students to navigate unfamiliar technology. Because the internet connection is slow or the laptop malfunctions, or the test kicks them out for unknown reasons. Because they do not differentiate for our vastly diverse student population. Recently, one of my students, Z, told me that he has given up on school. Z is a bright, caring EL student with significant learning disabilities. When I asked him why, he told me that none of the work that he does in the classroom matters, because he is going to fail all the tests anyway. He said, “When my teachers give me work in the classroom, I understand it. But then the tests come and I just fail. I don’t understand anything. I give up.”
Z knows that he can learn. And so do his teachers. He can’t get there by the same path as everyone else, but he can get there. But the barrage of tests, which insist on assessing everyone the same way, tell him otherwise. We have got to stop putting so much trust in these tests that tell us our students are below basic, that our teachers are ineffective, and that our schools are failures. And on behalf of Z and every student like him, I am not giving up.
At some level, the state agrees with me. The TN Department of Education has given students a grace period of a year before TN Ready counts for them. However, this test will STILL count for teacher evaluations. So I am back to wishing that the district would take teaching and learning seriously. How many teachers do you think are going to continue to commit professional suicide by getting low evaluations due to test scores? Tests that they know, and even the state knows, our students have no hope in passing? Would you stay? Are we as a district weary of the teacher retention problem?
Luckily, dear board members, there is something you can do. The Knoxville school board recently passed a resolution asking the state to not count TN Ready scores in teacher evaluations. I am asking you to do the same. The state needs to hear from district leaders as a united front on this issue. It will go a long way to show that you do take teaching and learning seriously. That is my wish.
For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

CAPE Flies Again

Newly-formed education advocacy group CAPE (Community Advocates for Public Education) will be in action at tonight’s MNPS School Board meeting, according to a press release:

The Coalition Advocating for Public Education (CAPE) will continue its “Use Your Teacher Voice” campaign at the MNPS school board meeting on Tuesday, December 8. The group attracted significant attention from both the media and board members when nine teachers spoke on the impact of high-stakes testing on their classrooms at the November board meeting.

Amanda Kail, one of the founders of CAPE and an EL teacher at Margaret Allen Middle Prep explains, “We are bringing the voices of professional educators back to the discussions about public education. There are so many big problems that need solving right now like over-testing, teacher retention, school closures, and the school-to-prison pipeline. These are all problems that teachers can help solve. We are the ones professionally grounded in the theory and practice of education. We are the ones that are doing the educating. We can help do what’s right for our kids.”

Kail notes that there are few professions that are so driven by policy makers who are not part of the profession. “A lot of people get involved in public education because they want to sell something. And there is nothing wrong with creating educational products and services, but it creates different goals. Earning a profit is not the same thing as educating a child. This is why CAPE encourages teachers to speak out, in order to create more balance when it comes to policy decisions.”

Board member Will Pinkston has pledged to make reducing testing a priority in the search for candidates for director of schools. Eleven teachers, nine of them who will be addressing the board for the first time, have signed up to speak at Tuesday’s meeting. Their theme will be “wish lists” for the district.

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

A Matter of Fairness

A coalition of education advocacy groups released an online petition today calling for a one year waiver from using student test scores in teacher evaluations in Tennessee.

Here’s the press release:

A coalition of groups supporting public education today launched an online petition asking the Tennessee General Assembly and Governor Bill Haslam to grant teachers a grace period from the use of student test scores in their evaluations in the first year of new TNReady tests. The petition tracks language adopted unanimously by the Knox County School Board, which passed a resolution last week opposing the use of student test scores in teacher evaluation for this academic year.

“The state has granted waivers so that TNReady scores aren’t required to be counted in student grades for this year,” said Lyn Hoyt, president of Tennesseans Reclaiming Educational Excellence (TREE). “If TNReady won’t count in student grades, it’s only fair that it shouldn’t count for teacher evaluation.” Hoyt noted that the transition to the new test means entering uncharted territory in terms of student scores and impact on teacher evaluation scores. As such, she said, there should be a one year or more grace period to allow for adjustment to the new testing regime.

“TNReady is different than the standardized tests we’ve had in the past,” Hoyt said. “Our students and teachers both deserve a reasonable transition period. We support the Knox County resolution and we are calling on the General Assembly to take notice and take action. Taking a thoughtful path transitioning to the new test can also build confidence and trust in the process.”

Hoyt also cited a recent policy statement by the American Educational Research Association that cautions against using value-added data in teacher evaluations and for high-stakes purposes. “Researchers who study value-added data are urging states to be cautious in how it is used to evaluate teachers,” Hoyt said. “The transition to TNReady is the perfect time to take a closer look at how test scores are used in teacher evaluations. Let’s take a year off, and give our students and teachers time to adjust. It’s a matter of fundamental fairness.”

Groups supporting the petition include:

Strong Schools (Sumner County)
Williamson Strong (Williamson County)
SPEAK (Students, Parents, Educators Across Knox County)
SOCM (Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment)

Middle TN CAPE (Coalition Advocating for Public Education)
Momma Bears Blog
Advocates for Change in Education (Hamilton County)
Concerned Parents of Franklin County (Franklin County)
Parents of Wilson County, TN, Schools
Friends of Oak Ridge Schools (City of Oak Ridge Schools)
TNBATs (State branch of National BATs)
TREE (Tennesseans Reclaiming Educational Excellence)
TEA (Tennessee Education Association)

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

New and Not Ready

Connie Kirby and Carol Bomar-Nelson, English teachers at Warren County High School, share their frustration with the transition to TNReady and what it means for teacher evaluation.

Connie Kirby:

This is going to be long, but I don’t usually take to social media to “air my grievances.” Today I feel like there’s no better answer than to share how I feel. It’s been a long year with some of the highest of the highs and lowest of the lows. I work in a wonderful department at a great school with some of the most intelligent, hard-working people I know. As the years have progressed, we have gone through many changes together and supported each other through the good and the bad (personally and professionally). We do our best to “comply” with the demands that the state has put on us, but this year everything that we’ve been hearing about and preparing for for years has come to fruition. We’re finally getting familiar with the “real deal” test, instead of dealing with EOCs and wondering how it’s going to change. I’ve seen the posts and rants about Common Core and have refrained from jumping on the bandwagon because I have had no issues with the new standards. I do, however, see an issue with the new assessment, so I have held my hand in the hopes that I might find something worth sharing and putting my name next to. Today, I witnessed an exchange between one of my colleagues and the state, and I couldn’t have said it better myself. With her permission, I am sharing her words.

Carol Bomar-Nelson:

I don’t know how to fix the problems with the test. I agree that teachers should have accountability, and I think student test scores are one way of doing that. Having said that, if the state is going to hold teachers accountable for student test scores, then the test needs to be fair. From what I have seen, I firmly believe that is not the case. I am not just basing this conclusion on the one “Informational Test” in MICA. Other quizzes I have generated in MICA have had similar flaws. When my department and I design common assessments in our PLC’s, we all take the tests and compare answers to see which questions are perhaps ambiguous or fallacious in some way. I do not see any evidence that the state is doing this for the tests that it is manufacturing. A team of people can make a test that is perfect with respect to having good distractors, clear wording, complex passages, and all the other components that make up a “good” test, but until several people take the test, compare answers, and discuss what they missed, that test is not ready for students to take–especially not on a high stakes test that is supposed to measure teacher effectiveness. I understand that this is the first year of this test. I am sympathetic to the fact that everyone is going through a ‘learning process’ as they adapt to the new test. Students have to learn how to use the technology; teachers have to learn how to prepare their students for a new type of tests; administrators have to figure out how to administer the test; the state has to work out the kinks in the test itself…The state is asking everyone to be “patient” with the new system. But what about for the teachers? Yes, the teacher effectiveness data only counts for 10% this year, but that 10% still represents how I am as a teacher. In essence, this new tests is like a pretest, correct? A pretest to get a benchmark about where students stand at the end of the year with this new test that has so many flaws and so many unknowns. In the teaching profession, I think all would agree that it is bad practice to count a pretest AT ALL for a student’s grade. Not 35%, not 25%, not even 10%. So how is it acceptable practice to count a flawed test for 10% of a teacher’s evaluation? We can quibble all day about which practice questions…are good and which questions are flawed, but that will not fix the problem. The problem lies in the test development process. If the practice questions go through the same process as the real questions, it would stand to reason that the real test questions are just as flawed as the practice questions. My students have to take that test; I never get to see it to determine if it is a fair test or not, and yet it still counts as 10% of my evaluation that shows my effectiveness as a teacher. How is that fair in any way whatsoever? In what other profession are people evaluated on something that they never get to see? Especially when that evaluation ‘tool’ is new and not ready for use?

I know how to select complex texts. I know how to collaborate with my PLC. I can teach my students how to read, think critically, analyze, and write. When I do not know how to do something, I have no problem asking other teachers or administrators for suggestions, advice, and help. I am managing all of the things that are in my control to give my students the best possible education. Yet in the midst of all of these things, my teacher accountability is coming from a test that is generated by people who have no one holding them accountable. And at the end of the year, when those scores come back to me, I have no way to see the test to analyze its validity and object if it is flawed.

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

Phil Roe: Replacing No Child Left Behind

Editor’s Note: We welcome Tennessee Congressman Phil Roe to the blog to discuss the Every Student Succeeds Act. Congressman Roe serves on the House Education and Workforce Committee.

This week, the House passed the Every Student Succeeds Act, bicameral, bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). This is the first reauthorization of ESEA since No Child Left Behind was signed into law by President George W. Bush and took effect in 2002. Unfortunately, though well-intentioned, NCLB has created a maze of government bureaucracy for students, their families, educators and school administrators. ESSA includes important reforms to return control to the local level, prevent the Secretary of Education from coercing states to adopt Common Core and pave the way for educators and school administrators to get back to what they do best by eliminating bureaucracy in the education system.

I’ve served on the House Education and Workforce Committee since coming to Congress in 2009, and have visited with hundreds of educators in and around the First Congressional District. I’ve also had the opportunity to speak with students and their families and a there’s a common theme in our conversations: stop Common Core and get Washington bureaucrats out of our schools. I’m proud to say that the Every Students Succeeds Act will do those important things, all while preserving conservative education principles. In November, I was pleased to see Chairmen Kline and Alexander and Ranking Members Scott and Murray announce the framework for a compromise to reauthorize ESEA had been developed. I was asked to serve on the Conference Committee, and worked with my colleagues to find a path forward to bring this bill to the floor.

The Every Student Succeeds Act repeals the one-size-fits-all “adequate yearly progress” accountability system, a standard set by the federal government, and replaces it with a statewide accountability program. This gives each state the ability to set their own standards, and, most importantly, to identify and assist struggling schools and districts. It also preserves our commitment to student performance by ensuring we’re regularly tracking student progress, but without requiring states to opt-in to a rigorous testing system by allowing them the flexibility to offer nationally recognized local assessments as long as those assessments meet reliability, validity and comparability standards.

To ensure states have control of their education system, this bill explicitly prevents the Secretary of Education from coercing states into adopting academic standards, such as Common Core. While Common Core began as a state-led initiative, it has morphed into a quasi-federal set of standards as the Secretary has used his authority to issue waivers from certain federal mandates in exchange for the adoption of Common Core. This provision is a huge win for our students and educators. Additionally, the Every Student Succeeds Act provides greater funding flexibility to states and school districts so they can better target their resources to areas with the most needs. A one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work for health care, and it certainly won’t work for our students. Each and every student has their own unique needs, and this bill allows education leaders to set their own priorities, ensuring students have the resources they need to be successful.

The most important thing we can do in education is to return control to the states and local school districts, and this bill does that. It’s the product of the hard work of Chairmen Kline and Alexander and Ranking Members Scott and Murray, and was done through regular order. This is how Congress is supposed to get things done for the American people, and I’m proud of this bill and what it will do for the future of this country. Our students are our future, and they deserve access to a quality education.

Rep. Roe represents Tennessee’s First Congressional District. He serves on the House Committees on Education and Workforce and Veterans Affairs, and served on the conference committee for the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Not Yet Ready for Teacher Evaluation?

Last night, the Knox County Board of Education passed a resolution asking the state to not count this year’s new TNReady test in teacher evaluation.

Board members cited the grace period the state is granting to students as one reason for the request. While standardized test scores count in student grades, the state has granted a waiver of that requirement in the first year of the new test.

However, no such waiver was granted for teachers, who are evaluated using student test scores and a metric known as value-added modeling that purports to reflect student growth.

Instead, the Department of Education proposed and the legislature supported a plan to phase-in the TNReady scores in teacher evaluations. This plan presents problems in terms of statistical validity.

Additionally, the American Educational Research Association released a statement recently cautioning states against using value-added models in high-stakes decisions involving teachers:

In a statement released today, the American Educational Research Association (AERA) advises those using or considering use of value-added models (VAM) about the scientific and technical limitations of these measures for evaluating educators and programs that prepare teachers. The statement, approved by AERA Council, cautions against the use of VAM for high-stakes decisions regarding educators.

So, regardless of the phase-in of TNReady, value-added models for evaluating teachers are problematic. When you add the transition to a new test to the mix, you only compound the existing problems, making any “score” assigned to a teacher even more unreliable.

Tullahoma City Schools Superintendent Dan Lawson spoke to the challenges with TVAAS recently in a letter he released in which he noted:

Our teachers are tasked with a tremendous responsibility and our principals who provide direct supervision assign teachers to areas where they are most needed. The excessive reliance on production of a “teacher number” produces stress, a lack of confidence and a drive to first protect oneself rather than best educate the child.

It will be interesting to see if other school systems follow Knox County’s lead on this front. Even more interesting: Will the legislature take action and at the least, waive the TNReady scores from teacher evaluations in the first year of the new test?

A more serious, long-term concern is the use of value-added modeling in teacher evaluation and, especially, in high-stakes decisions like the granting of tenure, pay, and hiring/firing.

More on Value-Added Modeling

The Absurdity of VAM

Unreliable and Invalid

Some Inconvenient Facts About VAM

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

 

TSBA Leader Named to Education Commission of the States

The Tennessee School Boards Association has announced that its Executive Director, Dr. Tammy Grissom, has been named to the Education Commission of the States:

TSBA is pleased to announce that Governor Bill Haslam has appointed Dr. Tammy Grissom, TSBA Executive Director, to the Education Commission of the States (ECS) as a Representative of state education policymaking.  ECS supports all 50 states and four territories – the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Puerto Rico andthe Virgin Islands. Each state appoints seven commissioners who help guide the work of ECS and their own state’s education agendas. Commissioners also have the authority to approve amendments to bylaws and provide strategic information to ECS staff regarding state education policy issues.  Governor Haslam’s comments about Dr. Grissom were, “ your individual characteristics and professional qualifications were exceptional among the number of nominees who expressed interest and your participation is certain to leave a positive impact on this board and the work it does.”

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

Lunchtime Lecture on Chamber Education Initiatives

The Tennessee Chapter of the American Society for Public Administration (TN-ASPA) will host a lunchtime lecture tomorrow on the Nashville Chamber of Commerce’s K-12 Education initiatives. The event is free and open to the public.

Here’s the press release:

TN-ASPA hosts the third lunchtime lecture in our Fall series on Education in Tennessee and Nashville. Rita McDonald will speak on the Nashville Chamber’s K-12 education initiatives.

  • Who: Rita McDonald, Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Topic: Nashville Chamber of Commerce K-12 Education Initiatives
  • When: Thursday, November 19, 2015, 12noon1pm
  • Where: UT Center for Industrial Services
    2nd Floor Training Room
    193 Polk Avenue, Nashville, TN
    (Parking available on-site, please park in the front of building and enter through the middle entrance under the “T”)
The Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce has set improvement of public education as its number one priority. The Chamber focuses on helping metro public school students succeed and on getting the community and business leaders involved in public education. The Chamber has several K-12 education programs and initiatives, including the Education Report Card, Freshman Career Exploration Fairs, speaker series, and awards.
Rita McDonald, the Director of Community and Business Engagement in Education with the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, will speak on:

  • Why public education is the Chamber’s #1 priority
  • the Chamber’s major initiatives to improve public education
  • the major challenges and opportunities in public education in Nashville
  • the Chamber’s positions on key local and state public policy issues related to education
Lecture is FREE and open to the public.
For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

Dear SC: Don’t Believe the Hype

South Carolina’s State Supreme Court has ruled that the education system in that state is not adequate for all students. Now, the legislature must find a solution that will deliver on the promise of equal access to education.

As P. L. Thomas notes, among the possible solutions being floated to help improve the situation is an Achievement School District, modeled after similar districts in Tennessee and Louisiana.

In fact, in a recent op-ed, one teacher and education blogger who Thomas notes is at least loosely affiliated with Students First, puts forth an Achievement School District as a key solution to the state’s education woes.

The piece directs readers to a website that advocates for the creation of an Achievement School District (ASD) in South Carolina.

That site, under the heading “Proven Results” cites Tennessee as a place where an ASD has positively impacted the education landscape.

What results? Well, the results outlined in a press release from the TN ASD touting its own success.

What is not mentioned is a thorough look at the numbers offered by Gary Rubinstein. The key finding from Rubinsteins analysis:

As you can see, four of the original six schools are still in the bottom 5% while the other two have now ‘catapulted’ to the bottom 6%.

The schools under ASD control the longest didn’t improve all that much. In fact, contrary to the attitude reflected in the pro-South Carolina ASD op-ed, Tennessee’s first ASD Superintendent, Chris Barbic said:

“As a charter school founder, I did my fair share of chest pounding over great results,” he wrote. “I’ve learned that getting these same results in a zoned neighborhood school environment is much harder.”

Another item not mentioned is that Tennessee’s ASD took over a school that was outperforming other ASD schools.

That’s a result, I contend, of the ASD expanding beyond its original mission. If policymakers in South Carolina do go the ASD route, they should build in safeguards against this sort of unchecked expansion.

Finally, South Carolina’s lawmakers should ask if the sort of educational disruption caused by an ASD does more harm than good.

Certainly, South Carolina must take action to improve the education environment there. However, as they explore creation of an ASD, I would suggest they proceed with extreme caution.

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport